Regulation of CD44 binding to hyaluronan by glycosylation of variably spliced exons.
Bennett KL., Modrell B., Greenfield B., Bartolazzi A., Stamenkovic I., Peach R., Jackson DG., Spring F., Aruffo A.
The hyaluronan (HA)-binding function (lectin function) of the leukocyte homing receptor, CD44, is tightly regulated. Herein we address possible mechanisms that regulate CD44 isoform-specific HA binding. Binding studies with melanoma transfectants expressing CD44H, CD44E, or with soluble immunoglobulin fusions of CD44H and CD44E (CD44H-Rg, CD44E-Rg) showed that although both CD44 isoforms can bind HA, CD44H binds HA more efficiently than CD44E. Using CD44-Rg fusion proteins we show that the variably spliced exons in CD44E, V8-V10, specifically reduce the lectin function of CD44, while replacement of V8-V10 by an ICAM-1 immunoglobulin domain restores binding to a level comparable to that of CD44H. Conversely, CD44 bound HA very weakly when exons V8-V10 were replaced with a CD34 mucin domain, which is heavily modified by O-linked glycans. Production of CD44E-Rg or incubation of CD44E-expressing transfectants in the presence of an O-linked glycosylation inhibitor restored HA binding to CD44H-Rg and to cell surface CD44H levels, respectively. We conclude that differential splicing provides a regulatory mechanism for CD44 lectin function and that this effect is due in part to O-linked carbohydrate moieties which are added to the Ser/Thr rich regions encoded by the variably spliced CD44 exons. Alternative splicing resulting in changes in protein glycosylation provide a novel mechanism for the regulation of lectin activity.